Jump to content
Great War Forum

Remembered Today:

TerryA

214 Siege Battery RGA location around LATE JULY 1917

Recommended Posts

TerryA

Finally viewed the Units War diary at Kew today and found out lots more regarding the batteries actions. It seems they were very involved from around April 1917 located not as Ororkep (Paul) thought (albiet he says around 1/8/17 @ 28.I.3c.7.5.4.0) but from the war diary were actually firing from a position to the SW of Elverdinge @ 28.B.20.a.50.40 - I didn't read later than 24th July. A few members have enquired about 214 Siege Battery recently and you may find the info below of interest

The unit sailed from Bristol according to the diary (although other records say Southampton) to Le Havre on deployment in late January 1917 and was then initially billeted to camp then transferred to serve around Ypres from March. It was a four gun battery at this time. Initial deployment was recorded as slow as the ground conditions were very hard due to frost and cold conditions and the gun emplacements took more time than expected to prepare.

They had a very busy few months, notably on 3rd July they sustained a very heavy counter battery bombardment (estimated to be 1500 rounds) with all of the battery's guns being damaged and subsequently removed to workshops for repair. Only 4 gunners were killed that day. The next day the battery was made up from 4 to 6 guns but the unit was temporarily moved to relieve another Siege Battery for some days as their original guns were out of service - before returning to their position outside Elverdinge and taking charge of the 6 guns - 8" Mk VII Howitzers of the new battery entitlement. .

They sustained a second severe shelling with gas shells on the 12/13th July that resulted in 57 being hospitalised initially, subsequently 119, of which 15 were serious cases with unfortunately 5 dying from the effects of the gas over the next two weeks whilst in hospital.

During this period the battery was firing around 250 - sometimes over 600 rounds per day most aimed to the north and west of St Julien.

My wifes grandfather - 2Lt J Phemister was wounded at 1958 hours on the 24th July in the left arm with another gunner being killed during the received counter battery fire - a wound which ended his war service as the arm was severely damaged although fortunately he survived.

This war diary is currently being digitalised and when available is both well written and an interesting read - WO95/468. The diary covers the period Jan 1917 to January 1918.

Have managed to locate the map reference on the converter and will be visiting the battery site in Feb when we visit the Ypres area

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Stebie9173

Many thanks for posting the summary of the war diary - my great-great uncle (who I have coincidentally only just started to look at) 94461 Robert Day was one of the 5 men who succumbed to gas - in his case on the 28th July 1917 having taken two weeks to die.... That doesn't bear thinking about...

Is there any mention of the type of gas being used?

Steve.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
ororkep

TerryA,

Thank you but I do not think... I actually know!

I have everything you have posted at my fingertips and a lot more besides. I suggest you read further than 24th.

P

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
TerryA

TerryA,

Thank you but I do not think... I actually know!

I have everything you have posted at my fingertips and a lot more besides. I suggest you read further than 24th.

P

Thanks Paul - I will probably return to NA soon as I live in London and will read further but ran out of time today as my real interest was with the relative of my wife who I knew was wounded on the 24th.

Seems I've upset you with this post which was not intended.

No Steve - the type of gas was not mentioned in the diary.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
kevinrowlinson

Is there any mention of the type of gas being used?

Steve.

Steve,

Not exactly for the 13/7/1917 but according to the records of 629/382314 John Forge's, who was also gassed that day, when he was gassed again in early Sept it was mustard gas. The only other named gas I can find for this batteries casualties was during Sept 1918 when it was "Yellow X". If one was to go through all the records available for men who returned to England because of gas poisoning on the 13th one may find a hospital record for what type of gas.

I suspect that more men died as a result of that bombing with 13 gunners being listed as died between the 13th and the 28th for this battery.

Kevin

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Stebie9173

Thanks for checking. I probably don't need to know - it sounds like it was a long painful death in any case. Most bizarrely his widow wrote to the War Office after the war expressing the thought that he might be a POW and suffering amnesia - it must have been so difficult for some widows to come to terms with the loss - Robert Day was one of those who left four children behind. It looks like the local war memorial at Langtoft has his name on it but the name has been identified with a "possible" caveat on it as a different man from a nearby village, though "my" Robert Day's family has stronger links with the village and his records show that his widow did move back to Langtoft after his death. One to pursue in the new year, I think, rather than get to wound up about types of gas. I suspect the gassing would be mentioned in more detail on an officers records.

I will also have to get a copy of the diary when it comes online or on my next visit to Kew (he also spent a while with 170 S.B. until slightly wounded in April 1917 - I always think "what if" with these sort of wounds that take a man in and out of harms way...)

Were the battery in action when they were hit with the gas shells or "at rest", by the way?

Steve.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
TerryA

Not sure - but will be going back to Kew soon with more time to slowly analyse the diary and if I find any more info on the gas attack will post a response

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
TerryA

Returned to Kew the other day to view the war diary again and found some answers to the questions above but also came away a bit confused myself.

Firstly, there is no mention in the diary of the type of gas to which the battery was exposed.

The battery was deployed to the South West of Elverdinge initially @ 28.B.20.a.50.40 in the first week of May. This location is accurately recorded in the war diary and was the position where they started their bombardment duties.

On the 26/05 - 2 guns (numbers 3,4) were moved to Ypres, with another (number 1) on 02/06 and the final gun (number 2) moving on 06/06. Unfortunately the diary does not record the battery's new location by co-ordinates, merely in the next few months stating either, Ypres or Potizje. Therefore, my original assumption that the battery was firing from SW of Elverdinge is wrong and the co-ordinates given by Orokep (Paul) of 28.I.3c.7.5.4.0 will be the battery position as this co-ordinate is slightly SW of Potizje (close to Gibraltar Farm) just off of the road from Ypres to Potizje. Perhaps Paul has information regarding this position from another source as there is no reference to it in the Unit's diary.

http://rdf.muninn-project.org/TrenchCoordinates.html enter 28.I.3c.7.5.4.0 and submit in co-ordinates box

It is interesting to note in the diary that the location switches from Potizje to Ypres on occasions,even though it is the same handwriting so the person completing the diary must have been the same and the entries have been made the same day.

Following the severe counter battery bombardment received on the 03/07 (estimated 1500 rounds), where all four guns were damaged, the Battery spent a few days taking over another battery's guns and during this period the battery was made up from 4 to a 6 gun establishment (8" Mk VII Howitzer). On 11/07, commencing at 0245 hours, three guns (numbers 3,4,5) and then, at 2330 hours, three guns (numbers1,2,6) were moved to new positions but again there is no record in the diary of the co-ordinates for their deployment only - Ypres.

The gas shelling that affected a large number of the battery, with heavy casualties, was sustained just two days after they took up positions here so they must have been observed by the Germans and targeted to eliminate their effective counter battery fire. There are many other days when the diary records gas drifting over their battery position. From taking up position the battery is heavily engaged in counter battery bombardment, firing large numbers of rounds most days, so I think it unlikely that the battery will have moved during this time and this is where, I think, my wife's grandfather will have been wounded and it is here we will visit (thanks Paul (Orokep) for your assistance). On 03/08 the location is named as Potizje (again, regrettably) no co-ordinates are given if the battery did indeed move - pretty sure this was the start of the Passchendaele offensive so I suppose it is possible ??

On the 27/28/09 the Unit was withdrawn to J Siege Park (west of Elvertinge ??) to rest (I think as the pencil entries are now very faded).

An entry was also made in the diary that the Battery was complimented - between 16 July and 26 September for firing the most rounds of any unit in the sector (over 5800 ) and had all guns serviceable all of the time. On withdrawing to Siege Park - two guns were condemned as being worn out. For the major part of their action during this period (from 24/06 until they were withdrawn to rest) they served with 2nd and 8th HAG.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
inoils

I found this forum (and particularly the posts by TerryA) very interesting and helpful as I have been researching the life of my great Uncle, Captain Jack Strain, who was 2nd in command of 214 Siege Battery from the spring of 1917 until he was killed in action on the first day of the Battle of Passchendaele (Third Battle of Ypres) on 31st July 1917, at the age of 20.

I have put together a website to commemorate Jack which includes a number of letters that were sent to his parents after his death both from the Battery and from Jack's wider friends.  The site is at www.jackstrain.co.uk and I hope TerryA doesn't mind but I have quoted some of his post above within the site (which is obviously non commercial). 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
James A Pratt III

From the RFC Communiques:

21 June 1917 This battery observed for by Cpt Bolton and Lt Torrance 21 Sqn demolished 3 gun pits of a hostile battery

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×